LONDON – The first question posed to Andy Murray at his pre-Wimbledon news conference concerned England’s early exit from the World Cup and how the tennis player might feel “to have the hopes of a despondent nation” on his shoulders.
Murray paused, before replying with a single word: “Wow.”
Then Murray smiled and again said, “Wow.”
Welcome back to the All England Club, Andy, where the attention and expectations are unlike those heaped on any tennis player at any other tournament.
Murray has handled it all quite well, reaching at least the semifinals five consecutive times, getting to the final in 2012 before losing to Roger Federer, and then in 2013 becoming the first British man in 77 years to win Wimbledon. He’ll open his title defense today on Centre Court against David Goffin of Belgium, who has lost seven Grand Slam matches in a row.
After composing himself, Murray did get around to answering Sunday’s opening query: “To be honest, I don’t feel too much different than I did a few days ago. I’m here to try and win the tournament. That’s it. My focus is solely on the first match, preparing properly for that.”
Peters Township native Alison Riske, he 40th-ranked women’s player, opens play Tuesday against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is ranked 26th.
Five other things to know about Wimbledon:
Novak and Boris: Boris Becker won three Wimbledon titles in the 1980s and was a runner-up four times, and now he’s helping coach No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic. “This is his surface. This is his home,” said Djokovic, the 2011 champion and 2013 runner-up. It’s their first trip to the All England Club as a pair. Assuming Djokovic is healthy – he said he felt “a little bit of a strange sensation” recently in his problematic right wrist, but declared “now it’s fine” – his first match hardly shapes up as a test. His opponent, Andrey Golubev, has lost nine matches in a row on grass.
Venus on Court 2: Venus Williams won five singles trophies at the All England Club, but she hasn’t won a match there since 2011. She lost in the first round on Court 2 in 2012, then missed Wimbledon last year with a back injury. On Monday, the 30th-seeded Williams returns to Court 2, facing Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.
Azarenka eyes a win: Victoria Azarenka is a two-time Australian Open champion, a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist and a former No. 1, but it’s hard to know what to expect from her today. It’s been five months since she won a match, mainly because of a left foot injury. She plays on Court 1 against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, a Wimbledon semifinalist way back in 1999.
Dimitrov vs. Harrison: For all the potential of 11th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, the 23-year-old Bulgarian is awaiting a real breakthrough at a Grand Slam tournament. He has lost in the first round in seven of his 15 previous appearances. At Wimbledon, he’s never been past the second round. But he did win the Queen’s Club grass-court title this month. He faces 22-year-old American qualifier Ryan Harrison, who always seems to run up against highly seeded players at majors.
Stephens VS. Kirilenko: Only one woman has reached the second week at each of the last six major tournaments. No, not Serena Williams. Or Maria Sharapova. It’s 18th-seeded American Sloane Stephens, who is 31-12 over her career in Grand Slam matches, 55-54 elsewhere. On Court 18, she’ll take on Maria Kirilenko, a 2012 Wimbledon quarterfinalist and former top-10 player now ranked 109th. Kirilenko is engaged to three-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin.